Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fire and brimstone expected in the fight for control of BDP

Political pundits predict that the ongoing tussle for the heart and soul of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) between the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe controlled central committee, on the one hand, and the Khama led Nkate-Merafhe faction, on the other hand, will get worse before it gets better.

Speaking to The Sunday Standard on Friday, University of Botswana Political Science Lecturer Dr.Bashi Mothusi said Barata-phathi will not sit back and watch Khama ride roughshod over the Kwelagobe and Motswaledi led central committee that they fought so hard to bring into power at the recent Kanye congress.

“The diplomatic tones adopted by Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi and the sitting central-committee’s submissiveness and docility, in the face of a sustained onslaught by President Khama should not be construed as a sign of surrender but rather a tactical move by Barata-phathi. They are intent on portraying themselves as a law abiding and peace loving lot who are constantly struggling to parry the belligerent and combative onslaughts of Khama and the A-team. This is the very strategy that helped them carry the day in Kanye,” he said.

He also warned that Barata-phathi will not tackle Khama head on, but rather choose their battles very carefully, eventually delivering a crippling blow that will cement their authority as the faction that sits in the BDP’s drivers’ seat.

After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction at the Kanye congress, President Khama moved fast to reassert himself as the powerful broker at the helm of the BDP, snubbing the newly elected central committee and unilaterally making sweeping appointments without consulting the sitting central committee.

After reports filtered through that he had refused to see Motswaledi and Kwelagobe when they paid him a courtesy call, Khama went on to appoint five additional central committee members and 77 sub-committee members without the input of the new central committee. Worse still, all the appointments were from the vanquished A-team.

While the central committee was still smarting from Khama’s very public openhanded slap he went further and extended BDP Executive Secretary Comma Serema’s contract by another three years without consulting Motswaledi, who is Serema’s immediate supervisor.

Khama’s decision is, however, being contested by the other faction. Serema’s future at the BDP is in the balance, especially as he was widely considered an A-team foot soldier in the run up to the Kanye congress. Many consider his contract extension, especially without Motswaledi’s blessing, as a thank you gesture from the president for having campaigned on the side of his preferred faction.
Political pundits have commented that the president diverted from tradition in that prior BDP leaders have always made such appointments in consultation with the central committee, despite the fact that they are empowered by the BDP constitution to do so alone.

“One would have thought that the President will be informed by the events that unfolded before the Kanye congress, and live up to the promises that he made to the effect that he will work cordially with the new central committee,” they said.

Dr. Mothusi concurs adding that the President should, instead of flexing his muscle and exerting his authority willy-nilly, work towards uniting the party and ensuring that peace and tranquility prevail ahead of the general elections.

“The President looks like he wants to neutralize the Barata-phathi’s influence. He has hit a u-turn and reneged on his earlier calls for unity and reconciliation and he is now openly castrating the new central committee, at the same time propping up members of the Nkate-Merafhe faction. In fact, he is treating the central committee more like an opposition party than fellow BDP members. This is very dangerous and might come to haunt him in the future,” warned Dr Mothusi.

Contrary to expectations that the inaugural central committee meeting would be an explosive brawl for the control of the party, given the unfolding events prior to the meeting, the event was an anticlimax in that the meeting ratified and endorsed the president’s unilateral decisions without even a squeak. Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi was on Monday very diplomatic and ran short of apologizing for Khama’s continued disregard of their presence and clout.
There are two schools of thought in the ongoing tussle for the control of the BDP. On the one hand some say that the chickens have come home to roost for the Barata-phathi led central committee as the president is giving them a dose of their own medicine by using his constitutionally endorsed powers to snub them.

“Barata-phathi humped the constitutional supremacy gravy train all the way to victory at the BDP congress. They cannot now point an accusing finger at Khama because he is standing on the very platform through which they ascended to power: constitutional supremacy. They are rendered helpless because they cannot be seen to be desecrating the very constitution through which they came to assume control of the BDP,” they said.

Other BDP insiders, on the other hand, have dismissed Barata-phathi’s meek and submissive charade as a part of their perceptions-tactics, through which they want to portray themselves as the BDP’s uniting force, struggling to contain the dictatorial Khama and his A-team.
“It would be very na├»ve for the A-team to think the Barata-phathi will sit back and watch them usurp their hard earned powers. In fact, the president is playing right into their hands and reinforcing his initial statements that he will find it difficult to work with DK should he be elected into power,” said Dr. Mothusi.

The president, he continued, stands in danger of alienating himself from the people because he is giving Barata-phathi ammunition with which they can attack him in public. They can easily go back to the people and evoke those still-simmering sentiments and perceptions of Khama as a man who is intent on having his way so much so that he disregards the will of the people and ignores a democratically elected central committee by imposing people who are, in the eyes of the public, his cronies. They will work on the already entrenched perception of Khama as a man who never forgives and forgets, and a man who has no time for dissent.

Dr Mothusi also added that Barata-phathi is letting the president have his way with them not because they want to but because they want the people to judge him because of his actions.

“Their strategies of being diplomatic, silent and powerless in the face of Khama’s unprecedented onslaught will in the end work for them because it will expose the president. But, as a powerhouse of note within the BDP, the Barata-phathi are also circling their wagons in the background and preparing to capitalize on the president’s mistake, while upfront they keep an innocent and even pitiful face of a party leadership that is held at ransom by a power wielding president,” he said.
Others have also posited that the Barata-phathi might also be waiting to ambush the president and deliver a sucker punch after the next parliament comes into office.

They argue that the Barata-phathi might use their numerical strength in parliament to sponsor a motion dealing away with automatic succession. They also argue that the Barata phathi will use their numerical strength in parliament to push for a Vice President of their choice and also push for the appointment of all the eight specially elected members of parliament from their faction. Dr. Mothusi concurs, but explains that the Barata-phathi will not be publicly combative in their fight against the president.

“While the president and the A-team have all along been abrasive and combative in their campaign, the Barata-phathi has cultivated an image of a grounded and mature lot. Instead of personally sponsoring such motions, they will probably use the opposition to endorse a vice president and specially elected members of parliaments of their choice, in the process keeping their image squeaky clean,” he said.

In conclusion, Dr Mothusi quoted Italian philosopher, Nicollo Machiavelli’s teachings on the lion and the fox. A prince, he said, must be sly like a fox and intimidating and frightening like a lion. The prince should work within the laws, and within traditional concepts of morality whenever possible. However, to be a truly effective ruler, the prince must be prepared to step outside these boundaries and flex his muscles if need be. At the same time, Machiavelli realizes that while it is important to be feared, it is equally important not to incur the hatred of the citizenry because once that happens, no amount of cruelty, force or beastly actions will restore the prince’s stature.

“The best fortress a ruler can have is not to be hated by the people,” concludes Nicollo Machiavelli.

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